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Fluvial Cartographies . sd|tj . on the border

Form(ing) the Informal Building_Transit COREdors

Form(ing) the Informal


Above: Informal settlements in the Rio Alamar valley. Left: The Tijuana River as it flows through the Zona Rio neighborhood Tijuana in its concrete channel.

Introduction: Fluvial Cartographies_Tijuana Rene Peralta John T. Hoal, Ph.D., AICP, RIBA

Fluvial Cartographies_Tijuana

Historically, geography did not play an important role in the urbanization of the border. This contiguous geographical context has created asymmetrical binational urban pairs; cities on the Mexican side of the border have experienced an accelerated growth compared to their U.S. counterparts. Urbanized sections along the border have experienced an unprecedented and dramatic transformation due to migration and economic factors that began with the large-scale industrialization of the region in the


Since the demarcation of the U.S./Mexico border, the actual limit and physical edge between these two countries has gone through several processes of speculation, bartering, and “transaction� that have defined the planning and cultural mythologies of its urban regions. Within these interchanges and contradictions, the geography of the region has been participant in the incessant dialogues of political and territorial debate.

middle of the 20th century. As urban and industrial development increases in the name of modernization, relaxed environmental laws and policies have resulted in ecological systems are at the brink of collapse. The subjugation of formal and informal development, which in the last 20 years have reached their critical mass, demands an urgent revisit to the topographical and water-reserve sustainability of the region.

Form(ing) the Informal


Water in most parts of the US/Mexico border region is a shared preoccupation since the Colorado River supplies a significant amount of cubic-meters to the urban regions of Mexicali/Calexico and Tijuana/ San Diego. Tributaries that bifurcate from the river extend and cross national borders throughout their trajectory. Similar to the exchange of goods and labor, the issue of water rights and treatment has been subjected to bi-national politics that affect the future development and growth of these cities. In the

city of Tijuana, water and topography are part of the violent process of development as witnessed in the informal and squatter communities demanding that the local government provide infrastructure to access the precious resource. While these demands are made possible throught the efforts of private housing developers, topography is engaged in a continuous battle with the developers who cut and grade canyons and watersheds to realize higher profits in the name of social housing. This constant ecological battle is further staged at the institutional level through the constructions of grand urban projects that channel the Tijuana River through concrete canals, dividing and incising the urban landscape of this border city. To the north, San Diego’s relationship with topography and water has been one of a simulated symbiosis. Large extensions of territory buffers San Diego County from its dystopic neighbors, Tijuana to the south and Los Angeles to the north. The green and

thirsty lawns of suburban sprawl gated communities, a semiotic element of the American Dream, consume 70% of a household’s daily water use. In the 1970s, urban planner Kevin Lynch created a report entitled Temporary Paradise, describing the possible links between community development and inland topography as well as oceanfront and urban development. The San Diego coastline has been reshaped and enclosed by the naval shipbuilding industry, making difficult the possibility of San Diegans to have a natural relationship with their coast and creating their earthly paradise. The relationships and strategies between geography and urban development is dealt quite differently as we move back and forth across La Linea (the line), due to structural differences between both regions and countries. In the border cities of the U.S., national policy largely determines development

while in the Mexican side of the border, localization is a dependent factor. Thus, the border is a space of paradoxical encounters far from achieving synthesis. Within these structural paradigms, students of La Linea engaged in the production of research and the conceptualization of settlement and development patterns that surge from these informal and often volatile acts of urbanism. Straddling the global border between the third and first worlds, the Tijuana/San Diego metropolis defies the boundary of urban typology. The fixed and static attempts to construct boundaries, from the layers of fences, gates, and surveillance at the wall at the national demarcation line to the enclaves and barricades of gated communities, manifests a reactionary confusion of natural and political systems and masks the dynamic complexity of ecological and environmental symbiosis. 5 Building_Transit Fluvial Cartographies_Tijuana COREdors

The theoretical precept of this studio is to expose the multiplicities of the region through the study of the issue-saturating topic of water, tracing the impacts and network of the Tijuana River watershed. The only body flowing freely and variously across the international line, this watershed conceptually and literally engulfs the spatial field across which economic, ecological, logistical, and socio-political decisions, forces, and trajectories play out. Students of these fluvial processes are tasked with a progressive and projective investigation, with research of the embedding scales of habitat composition, with identification of a problem and site, and with development of a design intervention that both highlights and is generated from the community design possibilities present in the informal city.

Form(ing) the Informal


Welcome to LA LINEA.


Building_Transit Fluvial Cartographies_Tijuana COREdors


Contrasting the First and Third Worlds

Form(ing) the Informal


Brian Michener Timothy Breihan

In San Diego, a permitting process oversees all building construction. This formalizes how, where, and to what extent development can occur. Therefore, 99% of land is urbanized formally in San Diego. The process also ensures that the amount of undeveloped land stays within the U.N. Council on City Living’s acceptable range of 9 meters per capita.

San Diego has Tijuana.

9x more undeveloped land than

In Tijuana the amount of undeveloped land is less than half that of San Diego. And over 60% of land in Tijuana is irregularly urbanized. Unlike in its northern counter city, Tijuana’s development occurs wherever it sees fit meaning that a large portion of the population lives in high risk areas; either from flooding, landslides, or unsafe terrain. In Tijuana, the amount of undeveloped land is only 1.8 meters per capita.

Tijuana has nearly

4x the density of San Diego

9 Building_Transit COREdors

Right: A map of the undeveloped land in both San Diego and Tijuana. Grey represents open space.

Housing & Community Development: Systems of Urban Growth

Form(ing) the Informal


Urban development in Tijuana follows one of two primary paths. Developer-built housing is rolled out over hundreds of acres at a time in developments that are typically sold as inexpensive market-rate housing. Low-income subsidies from the federal government in the form of a cash stipend are available when one completes five years of continuous employment and, as a result, much of this large-scale development ends up functioning as indirect social housing. This developer model, based on the U.S. suburban subdivision, is driving urban settlement and land consumption in the Tijuana metropolitan region. Contrasting the developer model is the ad-hoc development of informal settlements—the slum, barrio, or favela. Mexican federal law provides for

ownership of occupied land if an individual can prove that he or she has lived on the land in good faith for five consecutive years. This law, known as the Law of Prescription, turns long-term squatting into land ownership. The informal settlement patterns that this process produces results in diverse, complex, and vibrant neighborhood that account for over 50-percent of urban development in Tijuana. On the other hand, government-subsidized squatting makes the development of public parks and the preservation of land for ecological purposes virtually impossible (eventually, land that not tightly controlled and surveilled will end up the site of informal development) and makes the realization of any longterm planning projects extremely difficult.

11 Building_Transit COREdors

Left: Government subsidized housing projects are built quickly and cheaply, without a sense of community Right: Models show the two ways communities are formed in Tijuana: formally and informally.

Border Crossing: Processes for Entry Excerpts from the I-94 form required for immigrants entering the United States: “Travellers may obtain a non-immigrant visa if it is determined that they intend to remain for a specific limited time and have a residence outside the United States as well as other binding ties which will ensure their return abroad at the end of their trip.”

“A visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. A visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to the U.S. port-ofentry, and the Department of Homeland Security U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector authorizes or denies admission to the United States.” Below is the daily traffic entering the United States. On the right is the traffic entering Mexico.

Form(ing) the Informal


Entering U.S.

Entering Mexico


Pass U.S. Customs And Border Protection Inspection Travel To Port Of Entry Obtain A Non-Immigrant Visa

Map showing the proceedure for entering Mexico against that for entering the United States.

Obtain A Mexican Passport

Building_Transit COREdors

Travel To Port Of Entry

Education Expenditure: Spending on A Future Economy

Form(ing) the Informal


The United States and Mexico allocate similar percentages of their national GDP to education with the U.S. spending 7.2% and Mexico spending 6.3%. When translated to USD, this equates to the U.S. spending $871 billion (national GDP of 12.45 trillion USD). In Mexico, the expenditure on education is $48 billion (national GDP of $768.4 billion USD). Therefore, Mexico spends 18% of what the United States does on education. If the United States has roughly 303M people and Mexico has 109M in population then a comparison can be made across the number of people enrolled in the education system and to what level of education they are attaining. In the U.S. 60M students are enrolled in primary and secondary education with another 17.4M enrolled in post-secondary education. In Mexico, those numbers are 26M and 2M respectively. If both countries were educating for the same economy, then the numbers would be closer to a one-third/two-thirds relationship; however, they are not. Therefore, it can be said that Mexico is educating for a different sector considering the significantly smaller number of students enrolled in postsecondary education. In terms of funding, the U.S. is thusly spending approximately $14,530 per student in primary and secondary education as opposed to the $1,861(USD) that Mexico spends per student. This represents a difference in educating for a knowledge-based or service-based economy.

comparitive model of city-wide education expenditure

comparitive model of national education expenditure


There are more jobs in San Diego requiring higher education than in Tijuana.

15 Building_Transit COREdors


The United States has more people enrolled in higher education than Mexico.

90% san diego 60% tijuana

water resource

lake mead hoover dam

colorado river


lake havasu

Form(ing) the Informal

colorado river aqueduct

parker dam

san diego aqueduct

coachella canal salt on sea

all american canal imperial dam

san diego tijuana


870L of water per person per day Tijuana uses 130L of water per person per day San Diego uses

17 Building_Transit COREdors

Most of Southern California, including the San DiegoTijuana region, gets its water primarily from the Colorado River which is rationed and controlled by various agencies and governments along its length. The river, however largely favors the United States feeding over 28 water reservoirs in the San Diego city limits on top of all the reservoirs in Los Angeles. The water reaches these reservoirs by way of the Colorado River Aqueduct and the All American Canal (which runs directly along the binational border fence just on the U.S. side.

15,000 m

10,000 m

5,000 m

Tijuana is served by only 1 reservoir and receives merely a fraction of the water from the Colorado that the United States receives. Rainfall in the area is less than 8 inches per year and the reservoir sits 98 meters above sea level making it difficult to build on land higher than the reservoir.

500 m

otay mesa

tijuana water line - 98 meters

Tijuana’s water carrying capacity is Diego.

1/2 that of San

Form(ing) the Informal


Los Laureles Canyon

Building_Transit COREdors

Connecting the Los Laureles Canyon Brian Michener

s p





tijuana river watershed


fresh water

r p

tertiary road

secondary road

primary road

Located immediately adjacent to the International Border fence with a direct pipeline into the San Diego Estuary, the Laureles Canyon is a microcosm its larger city.

Building_Transit COREdors

public transportation route


international border

The Los Laureles Canyon is characterized by a steep topography, a strong residential community, a disappearing natural ecology and a patchy, fragmented network of infrastructure systems including roads, sewer, power and flood management. Treacherous terrain bisects the area into two separate mesas while a relatively flat channel along the floor offers suitable land for building; however, a dying ecosystem, brittle soil and unsafe building conditions contribute to the canyon’s susceptibility to flash flooding. With an already dense population of 38,000, the canyon is expected to nearly quadruple its population in the coming 10 years due to its desirable location between the Playas de Tijuana and Tijuana’s lively and historic downtown.

This project aims to invert the negative consequences of the Los Laureles Canyon’s treacherous topography and south to north slope, using them instead to responsibly accommodate the projected increase in population as set forth by the Municipal Planning Institute, IMPlan. In addition it provides the services most canyon residents say they either need or want, whether it is for themselves or for their children. The project considers the canyon walls as a series of highrise buildings, or, skyscrapers tilted on their sides. These are Building_Transit COREdors.

Consider the high-rise building: This typology is entirely about efficiency. Maximizing a small footprint, the high-rise stacks multiple floors and occupants into a densely efficient tower. Services and utilities are collected into a vertical core that services each floor. Elevators move people up and down between levels connecting the top-most floor to the bottom-most floor. Pipes circulate water; ducts carry air; electrical and data lines power each level’s outlets, appliances and machinery. Vertical circulation of all kinds are collected and channeled through a corridor of services that runs vertically throughout the entire structure.

electricity | data water | air vertical circulation

Form(ing) the Informal



Building_Transit COREdor Diagram of a singular transit COREdor


clusters analogous to skip-stop elevator lobbies. Residents branch out from the core like units in a high-rise building. Each street is a corridor connecting the units back to the vertical circulation system. Collecting services centrally allows the “building” to function efficiently while also providing room between “buildings” for natural habitation to take root. Vegetation between building systems occurs like a vertical garden rather than stretching horizontally

Building_Transit COREdors

Like the high-rise, the “building” in this case is the system of development on the canyon wall rising several hundred feet above the floor. A core of services stretches the length of the “building” fusing vertical circulation with mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. Amenities are clustered near the core and at various intervals, the largest of which anchor the top and bottom of the core. Smaller, more specific amenities occur in between the two large

along the canyon’s easily developable flat floor or mesas. Because residential intensity (1) is focused towards the service core, residents live in higher densities. This provides space for natural habitation which increases the stability of the soil and reduces the risk of landslides. It also enables a level of porosity between individual units giving residents access to both light and air.

Form(ing) the Informal


The vertical circulation navigating the steep canyon wall is a low-energy, zero-fare, counterbalanced funicular system (2). The funicular relies on two cars

(1) Residential Intensity By building the canyon walls responsibly and efficiently, the expected population increase to 110,000 persons can be adequately accommodated.

connected by a cable along a series of pulleys. The descending car takes advantage of gravity while it assists in hoisting the ascending car. Minimal electrical energy is needed to operate the system, but this energy is gathered from the harsh Baja California sun and not from the city’s power supply. Solar panels tile the roofs of every station along the track generating enough energy to run the funicular completely off-grid. Because the funicular is such a low-consumer of energy, solar panels act as the major electrical system for the “building.” They are able to generate an alternate source of electricity for the houses along each street corridor. Thus the circulation system is also the power plant.

(2) Funicular System A low-energy, zero-fare funicular system negotiates the canyon terrain and connects residents to existing public transit.

Anchoring the funicular system are hyper-programmed amenity clusters (3). Currently services and amenities are scattered across the canyon with little to no relationship to one another. By clustering them into multi-purpose, economical structures, canyon residents can accomplish more than one task in a single trip. Where currently a resident needs to go to one place for milk, another for medicine, a third for community services like employment and/or job training, they can now accomplish multiple tasks at a single location. Considering that the canyon is largely populated with elderly people and those with children, this helps to consolidate trips and make more of these services available to a wider range of the population.

(4) Water|Runoff Management Water and impurities are naturally filtered and channeled into retention basins for recycling and reuse while simultaneously slowing excessive runoff for flood control.


(3) Amenity Clusters By clustering services and amenities into economical, multi-purpose structures, residents can accomplish multiple tasks in a single trip.

Water management (4) is also achieved by the Building_Transit COREdor. Every horizontal, hill-side street channels runoff to the service core through roadside micro-swales. The micro-swales occur between the paved street and the sidewalk allowing oil and automobile deposits to be naturally filtered as they make their way to the core. Running the length of the core are remediation and detention tiers that allow the water to be naturally cleansed and purified for various types of recycling (fire station water, irrigation, passive cooling, etc.) by the clusters at the bottom of the system. This also provides natural habitation and sturdy soil upon which the vertical circulation tracks are installed. At the bottom of the

Building_Transit COREdors

Zero-Fare Solar-Powered Funicular

Market Loading / Community Garden / Rainwater Collection

Photovoltaic Panels

Public Terrace / Performance Space

Market Terrace


Prototypical Cluster Each hyperprogrammed cluster functions on the levels of services, amenities, flood control and transportation. A typical cluster groups currently disparate elements such as a school, a market, a bus stop and social services into a single structure allowing canyon residents to complete multiple tasks in a single location.

Primary School Preschool / Public Meeting Room

Outdoor Courtyard / Rain Garden

Form(ing) the Informal


Parking / Storage

Water Detention / Infilltration Gallery

core is a retention gallery (above) below an actively programmed public space which holds rainwater for recycling and landscape irrigation use. These basins are part of the “amenity cluster” at the base of each service core and are separate from the actively programmed detention basins that occur below playing fields (right) periodically along the canyon floor. Both are integral to the canyon’s flood control system.

A new node of activity including:

A multi-modal transit hub 1 Community Center 2 Public Plaza for markets / performance / recreation 3 Community Cultivation area 4 Elevated transit plaza framing downtown corridor 5 Fire Station 6 Water Reclamation Center 7 Active recreation fields 8 for schools and community A new water management strategy: Filter water from hillsides in bioswales • Detain peak storm water in playing fields & cultivation areas • Catch water through permeable plaza surfaces • A sustainable community service: Photovoltaic panels collect enough energy to power the funicular on a daily basis while also storing power for the community center and fire station in the event of a flood

Building_Transit COREdor Detail Area Plan PV Panels

2 4





25 Building_Transit COREdors

PV Panels



N scale: 1” = 50’

26 Form(ing) the Informal

The Market In Tijuana, it is common for major streets to be closed for traveling, open-air markets. This highly temporal market appears and disappears quickly, often assembling under brightly colored tents in the morning and vanishing by the evening. Residents

know where it will be next, but there is no sanctioned space for this informal public event. At the divide where the canyon splits into two canyons, the funiculars are connected by an elevated public promenade and space is provided to the public for use as a venue for performances, recreation and, of


course, The Market. The space is defined by a slatted wood deck made from discarded wooden materials. The deck fuses the moment where the pedestrian west side of the channel meets the vehicular east side and the two marry as they jog past the new Community Center.

The deck is the connective tissue of the newly formed public cultural node beneath and in front of the elevated vertical transit hub. A small community farming area is located immediately adjacent to the new market plaza allowing the market to be tied directly to its location.

Building_Transit COREdors

Rendering of new public plaza at funicular transit hub

Form(ing) the Informal


Channel as Tear The narrow, concrete channel in the center of the canyon floor tears the main road into two insufficient avenues. . In addition, it serves as a highly divisive barrier to residents who travel mostly on foot in this portion of the canyon.

Channel as Seam By removing the concrete bottom of the channel, it is allowed to grow native remediating plant life which acts to slow flood waters and promote natural habitation. One street is closed to vehicular traffic allowing the pedestrian zone to expand across the channel and into the bounding shops and cafes. Bridges over the channel encourage it to act as a seam to the two sides rather than a barrier.

The Channel At the base of the canyon in the north end, a severe channel divides the floor, creating an obstacle for pedestrians and vehicles. Installed as a means of flood control the channel’s carrying capacity has become inadequate to remove severe flood waters. However, during storms, the channel still directs dirty, polluted water north towards the border fence where they exit Mexico and enter the San Diego Estuary on the U.S. side, often causing irreparable damage to the ecosystem there. The channel is a monofunctionally engineered concrete corridor which forces a schism into the center of a pre-existing boulevard. The residual roads on either side are far too small for passing vehicular

traffic and often opposing cars have to move onto the sidewalk to pass each other (if not back up and use a side street to let the other by). Trucks and busses also use these roads making them even more difficult to navigate for pedestrians and local traffic. Lining the roads are patchy stores, markets, schools and homes. This is the main street of the canyon and while vehicles use it, it is largely a pedestrian avenue. But the channel is a major tear in the continuity of the development, deteriorating the fabric on either side of it. Residents have located unstable, rickety plank bridges in order to get across more easily. These bridges are temporary, crude and dangerous at best. By removing the concrete bottom of the channel, natural plant life can begin to thrive in the bed.

29 Building_Transit COREdors

Flood Level Water Level

30 Form(ing) the Informal

Fresh soil is rejuvenated by the plant life and is therefore absorptive, aiding in the detention of flood waters. Tiering the channel along its length as it moves north towards the estuary creates microbasins for the water to collect in after storms. The water is detained along its length and naturally gets absorbed into the soil. This drastically reduces the amount of water that is forced into the estuary while simultaneously encouraging more natural habitation in the canyon. These micro-basins can be arranged and designed to be both infrastructure and amenity. They provide safe, stable opportunities for crossing the channel

informally by their arrangement or by more formal, generous and well-constructed pedestrian bridges which link major perpendicular streets on either side of the channel. Thus the entire channel becomes activated by the canyon residents and opportunities for outdoor markets, cafes, performances and restaurants are given public domain close to the new natural amenity. Above: Prototype cluster along new tiered microbasin channel. Right: Newly activated channel with vibrant shops, residences and cafes.


Building_Transit COREdors

Deploying the Building_Transit COREdors Using the system of the Building_Transit COREdor the project then zooms out to deploy these tilted highrise buildings along the length of the canyon. Since development is already strongest at the north end near the border fence, a frame-work plan for that portion of the region is paramount.

Form(ing) the Informal


Analyzing the current topography, road network and development patterns, it is clear that critical connectivity from low to high ground is made possible only by periodic vehicular roads. These roads occur roughly one half mile from one another which forces residents to walk over ten minutes before finding a safe route to negotiate the slopes on foot.

Development residential • community • services •

Road Network connectivity • circuitry •

To mitigate this distance, residents have fashioned crude and dangerous earth and tire steps. Runoff | Habitation filter • detain • retain •

Topography mitigate • navigate • inhabit •

Building_Transit COREdors Funicular COREdor

Building_Transit COREdors

Funicular COREdor


The funicular COREdors are thus placed between the major hill-side roads in order to reduce the number of these home-made paths and maximize connectivity.



Form(ing) the Informal


The International Border fence creates an abrupt and unnatural northern edge condition to the geological canyon formation, slicing through the tips of two distinct ridge-lines. Paralleling the border fence at the top of the canyon is an arterial road that bypasses Los Laureles connecting the Playas de Tijuana to the city’s downtown. This road is elevated dramatically on a 200-foot earthen berm that effectively dams the canyon from flowing directly into the United States and its San Diego Estuary. The mountainous hillside that frames the canyon is both unique and generic in that, many places in Tijuana have steep, dry terrain, but few are as steep and drastic as this canyon. At its lowest point, the canyon floor is 40 meters (131 feet) above the neighboring sea level just a half mile away over the western ridge. This point is at the

northern-most edge of the canyon before the border and directly below the 200-foot earthen berm. At its highest point, the canyon is over 230 meters (410 feet) above sea level. This point is at the southern most edge of the canyon where larger, more easily developable mesas begin to form. The walls on either side of the canyon are, at points, more than 350 feet above the channel directly below. With a length of just over 4 miles, the canyon is actually two major canyons and several smaller canyons. Roughly 1/3rd the distance south from the border fence, the canyon splits into two equal canyons that travel the rest of the 4-mile length. This split causes an enormous geographic problem for residents as it not only bifurcates the lower half of the canyon but also causes a severe flooding risk for the northern portion of the area.

In high rain, runoff including water, sewage, debris and loose sedimentation from both channels rushes north towards the settlement near the border and is bottle-necked by the earthen embankment that supports the highway. A small drain allows water to flow under the road and into the San Diego Estuary. Because of the dry climate and desertification that has occurred over decades of informal building, the canyon is subject to significant landslides. Storm water is forced narrowly through the canyon digging deeper into the chasm and soil is very loose and often pollutes the estuary in heavy storms. This is a Binational issue. Los Laureles Canyon looking east

Building_Transit COREdors

To Downtown



order Fen U.S. International B Mexico

This Page: Locations for funicular lines in between major canyontraversing raods.

Form(ing) the Informal


This Page Lower Right: Current means of getting from on mesa to another is by walking a circuitous path along dangerously constructed stairs

From A

Funicular Line

To B

Transportation Buses and taxis are as common in the Laureles canyon as they are in Tijuana but the road network is extremely haphazard. The northern end of the canyon is the most accessible in terms of road construction as it stems from a large access highway connecting the Playas to downtown Tijuana. At the southern portion of the canyon a major settlement develops from another access highway and has a strong road network. Other developments in the canyon have strong road networks but like the settlement patterns of the canyon, they tend to occur on the canyon floor and the mesas above. Transit Coverage Analysis

37 Building_Transit COREdors

A major factor causing this disconnect is topography. Few roads connect the two elevation extremes and those that do are far enough apart that they are not condusive to foot traffic. Make-shift stairs and walkways are often laid out on disired paths between the bottom of the canyon and the top, but these are often poorly built and poorly maintained making them difficult for most inhabitants to negotiate. This makes for intra-connectivity within localized communities but leaves the canyon in largely disconnected patches of settlement. The canyon has sparse connectivity but little to no circuity. The implementation of low-cost, highly efficient funicular systems forges connections across the canyon and encourages circuitry within the area. These same funiculars tie into existing and future bus routes and stops networking the canyon to downtown Tijuana and the neighboring Playas beaches.

Proposed Transit Framework Plan

Form(ing) the Informal


High Ground Settlement

Low Ground Settlement

High Ground Development Low Ground Development

Steep Topography

Population Projections 2015

Actual 110,000+ Planned Increase 62,000


Current 38,000


floods that occur each year. However, this plan only accommodates an increase in the canyon’s population to 62,000 people; a little less than half the actual projected growth estimate. Hillside development is not only inevitable in the canyon, but it is also necessary. However, if left to continue in the normal informal pattern that is common in Tijuana, issues of safety, transportation, connectivity, ecology and environment will continue to plague the region. The canyon walls must be developed sensibly and safely in order to accommodate the incoming 72,000 new residents.

Building_Transit COREdors

The same agency has a comprehensive plan for the canyon that marginally densifies the already developed areas and sections off large portions of the hillside for natural conservation. This is primarily in order to address concerns about erosion and diminishing natural wildlife which are leading causes of the many dangerous landslides and flash


In the Los Laureles Canyon, development has avoided sloped ground, concentrating on the canyon floor and on the mesas taking advantage of naturally flat land. In 2008, the population of the canyon was roughly 38,000 residents. Its attractive location between downtown Tijuana and the Playas beach front development area make it an increasingly desirable place to settle, especially for younger generations. However, easily developable land (flat land) is limited if not already completely occupied. By the year 2015, planning agencies estimate that over 110,000 people will live in the canyon. That represents a 289% increase over a very brief 9 year period.

Developing the Canyon Walls By concentrating development in the canyon along inexpensive and efficient lines of vertical transportation (e.g. Funiculars), clusters of residential density will occur around multi-purpose structures, community amenities and services. Each end of the transit line is a densely populated node linking high ground and low

Form(ing) the Informal


ground, making it possible for residents to group daily Above: Residentconstructed stair connections Right: Locations for Building_Transit COREdors in the Los Laureles Canyon

activities such as buying groceries with picking kids up from school and/or utilizing community resource centers. Canyon residents are closely positioned to necessary services while higher densities are achieved in more stable and safely constructed homes. Residents along the canyon floor can elevate themselves above issues of flash flooding. Hillside development occurs in striated branches extending from mid-level transit stops allowing residents to occupy the canyon walls and maintain connectivity to the hyper-programmed nodes at the top and bottom of the transit line. This leaves naturally preserved areas in between bands of development allowing both people and wildlife to occur on the hillsides.

By adding these corridors of development across

each cluster as well as storing energy for use in

the canyon’s steep slopes, the projected population

times of emergency. Water management strategies

increase can be responsibly achieved. Connections

are built into the development infrastructure on

between top and bottom make negotiating the steep

every scale tying the canyon together in a coherent

terrain much easier for aging canyon residents and

flood and erosion mitigation strategy. Detention and

the nodes can be built in such a way that they run

remediation swales on the hillsides filter water into

with zero cost to the energy grid. Solar panels on the

collection basins below the clusters. Water is held

roof of the transit stops collect more than enough

and slowly released from these collection basins in

energy to drive the funiculars with reserve left over

order to alleviate pressures on the Norther canyon

to both power the markets, centers and schools in


41 Building_Transit COREdors

Increased Density Development Funicular Line

42 Form(ing) the Informal

Major Drainage Paths Active Recreation Space Runoff Collection Pools

Water Management

The active recreation zones are programmed with

As a means of flood control, the canyon floor at the north

baseball and playgrounds for nearby schools.

needed facilities for larger sports including soccer,

end is lined with a relatively narrow concrete channel. This channel is approximately 10 feet deep and 22 feet wide.

Porous playing surfaces allow water to collect

The channel is

beneath the playing fields and playgrounds in holding galleries. These inexpensive and efficient detention

The channel is designed to rush storm waters away

galleries slowly release flood waters back into the

from the canyon, directing them instead into the San

earth after the storms subside instead of into the

Diego Estuary; however, at the northenmost end of

San Diego Estuary where they are destructive to the

the canyon, running perpendicular to the channel is a

natural wildlife.

soaring highway built upon an earthen embankment. This embankment seals the channel from allowing

Used in conjunction with the smaller scale Building_

flood waters to escape the canyon.

Transit COREdors which remediate and filter water as it moves down the hillsides, these basins create

Due to informal building, natural habitation has

a network of flood control devices that work across

drastically been reduced by over 50% in just 3 years

multiple scales to keep the canyon safe from its

from 2001 to 2004. Hillsides are steep and dry

current biggest threat: flood water.

extremely fast along the slopes when even casual the water across teh 4-mile stretch of the canyon as well as no means of detaining the water: except at the north end where the channel turns into a bowl at the foot of the embankment. Severe floods often bring waters from both ends of the chasm’s split to the insufficient 10 foot deep channel. Active recreation zones are located in a necklace along the canyon floor. These zones are programmed and used during dry days and act as holding basins during storms when they wouldn’t be used anyway.

Building_Transit COREdors

storms come through. There are no means of slowing


with little to no plantlife on them. Thus water moves

Fluvial Cartographies  

Forming the Informal

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